A Palo Alto fire station covering a high-fire-danger area of the foothills has been closed, and nearby residents are a bit uneasy about the sudden lack of protection.
Station 8 in Foothills Park, which protects about 20 square miles and 160 homes, received few calls last year, and the Palo Alto fire chief decided to divert the resources from that station to better cover the denser areas of the city.
During fire season, from July through October, two or three firefighters usually are assigned to Station 8. But Chief Eric Nickel said the station responded to only 10 calls last year. The move will save about $300,000, which eventually will go to adding another department ambulance, Nickel said.
"We decided it would be better use of taxpayers dollars if we were handling more calls in the valley than staffing that department during fire season," Nickel said of the closure.
The president of the firefighters union, however, says closing the station will put the community at risk.
"This station, even if it's low-frequency, it is high-risk because of the drought and the windy road to get to the area," said Ryan Stoddard, president of the California Professional Firefighters, Local 1319. "You only have Page Mill Road, and without a station there, it could be catastrophic."
Nickel said thanks to agreements with the Santa Clara County Fire Department and other agencies, residents of the foothills will still be protected, and response times should not change.
But, even with that reassurance, homeowners said they are not covered and would feel safer knowing a fire station was less than a mile away.